"It's a priority," said principal Teresa Iyall-Williams at Tulalip Elementary. Language instruction boosts native students' achievement, she said. "It increases engagement when they are able to see themselves in the curriculum."
Non-Indian students benefit, too: At Port Angeles High School in Clallam County, where the student body is about 97 percent nonnative, Lower Elwha Klallam language instructor Jamie Valadez has since 1999 taught Klallam as one of the elective languages any student can take. Her classes are made up not only of students from Lower Elwha and other tribes but nonnative teens curious to learn.
"It is just something they are interested in and enjoy, they are fascinated with learning about the native culture," Valadez said.
Learning another language also hones her students' knowledge of English grammar and syntax, which they use to decode and build sentences in Klallam.